Needingworth Nature Reserve & River Ouse

If you want to take the kids on a sunny afternoon walk, this is the one to choose. Just under three miles of easy walking. And if, after a picnic and energetic game of hide and seek the little ones are a bit tired, the walk can be reduced to half that distance. Wander through the Ouse Fen, an attractive RSPB Nature Reserve nominated for the BBC's Countryfile Magazine 2013 'Britain's best nature reserve'.

Leafy lanes and riverside. Filled with insect life, wild flowers and grasses. A picnic site surrounded by trees. Even observation seats to peek across a peaceful lake at the varied birdlife. There's a high count of dragonflies and butterflies. Ever seen a five spot burnet or cinnabar moth caterpillar? Now's your chance to see two very colourful insects.

Good points of this 3 miles (6,500 steps) walk are easy walking of great variety along an award winning wetland RSPB nature reserve, field edges and riverside. Quiet places to sit and rest, with a great picnic spot. Plenty of wildlife, grasses and wildflowers. In winter some parts of the walk can be muddy. The route is shown below on the Ordnance Survey map. You can also zoom in on a satellite view of the walk at Google Maps.
Starting point
Park in the reserve car park. The main part of the walk goes through land prepared by the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project, converting sand and gravel quarries into a vast wetland nature reserve. This walk follows some of the reserve's paths. If you'd like to revisit and walk around the reserve itself, there are walking maps available as you leave the car park or you can download one by clicking here.

Walk away from the car park along the path between two fields. In summer the field edges are filled with a variety of wild grasses. After 200 yards the route turns right and is lined by trees.

On the right is a bank full of wild flowers. When thistles are in flower, masses of bees and butterflies feed on their nectar. Through the trees to the left you'll see the first of the reed beds created by the Wetland Project.

Point 1
After about 400 yards take the path on the left. You'll find a stream on your right and lake on your left. Another 450 yards and you'll come to a crossroads in paths. Continue straight on for another 100 yards.

Point 2
On your left you'll find an open area with a reserve noticeboard at the far end. Walk towards the noticeboard, and then around the copse of trees to the picnic area.

In addition to two picnic benches, there are observation seats to watch birdlife in the adjacent lake. The nearest point of the lake is a marshy area as shown above, where wading birds can occasionally be seen. The picnic site is a great for a game of hide and seek amongst the trees with young children. And if they're a bit tired, amble back to the start point to reduce this walk by half.

To continue the route walk out of the picnic area and turn left to walk further along the path, with the stream on your right. After just under 300 yards take the path to the right going over the stream, then turn left to walk along a leafy lane.

Point 3
After 500 yards you'll pass through a small stile, then walk up the flood bank to find the river Great Ouse facing you. Turn right and walk along the top of the flood bank.

A few yards will bring you to an elegant marker, where the Greenwich Meridian passes. Another few yards and there's a bench to admire the timeless view with varieties of birds along the river's edge, as shown below.

After walking along the bank top for about 600 yards, you'll pass through a stile. Follow the route along a wooded area for a further 300 yards, skirting the grounds of the The Pike and Eel and its marina. The inn dates from 1608, but modern additions have spoilt the appearance. If you're ready for refreshments of a posher variety, they have a decent menu and very attractive gardens to recline in overlooking the river.

Point 4
You'll arrive at Overcote Lane, the vehicle access to the marina and grounds. Turn right and after 150 yards take the footpath to the right. This path runs parallel to Overcote lane for half a mile. In summer the path edge is full of insects, wild flowers and grasses, with plenty of birds in the hedge on the right and wooded area on the left.

Point 5
Follow the path around to the right. to head away from Overcote Lane and back in towards the nature reserve. After a  further 400 yards you'll pass a bench on your left, and then find yourself passing the turning described in point 1. Continuing straight ahead, you're now back on the route to your start point.

Click the 'Print Friendly' button below to print out this walk to take with you. Or for more walks click the 'Return Home' button at the foot of this page. Did you enjoy the walk? Notice anything unusual? Why not add a comment below to tell fellow amblers what you liked about it?


  1. Was trying to work out how to get to the start point in the nature reserve so thought I would download the map from the RSPB website that you link to. Unfortunately, the link fails and cannot find the page. Perhaps you could update the page to say where the start point is?

  2. Anonymous3:20 pm

    Don't understand, Alan. There's an Ordnance Survey map showing the start point (S) and a link to a satellite view of the walk. Thanks for highlighting the link to the RSPB guide wasn't working. They had moved the document. It's linking correctly again now. Regards CWs

  3. Lesley7:16 am

    We did this walk a couple of weeks ago, at point 2 after leaving the picnic area, we looked along the path and there stood a beautiful fox, we both stopped and looked at each other for a few seconds and then the fox carried on its way. Further along there is an area full of oxeye daisies which were teaming with butterflies and insects, I had taken my camera along and I had lots of opportunities to use it - it was a lovely walk.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the walk, Lesley. Lucky to see a fox during daytime.


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